Home Travel BlogAustralia Travel Blog Why dodging pebbles on the Barkly Highway, Northern Territory is practically impossible

Why dodging pebbles on the Barkly Highway, Northern Territory is practically impossible

by Silke Elzner

From the Devil’s Marbles we set off towards Tennant Creek. We have a full day of driving ahead of us and we are a little worried we arrive too late at our final destination for the day, the Barkly Homestead and Roadhouse, which is pretty much halfway between the beginning of the Barkly Highway and the Queensland border.

First we arrive in Tennant Creek. I’m afraid there really is not much to write home about in this little country town, even though it is a service centre for an area in the Northern Territory roughly the size of the UK.

Tennant Creek is quite busy but surprisingly rough. On the main road lots of trucks and UTEs going about their businesses. The roads are lined with sand and dust, not grass, giving Tennant Creek that distinguished feeling of old age and decay. There are a number of people walking the streets, mainly groups of Aboriginal families. Where they are going, I don’t know.

Plenty of space at Barkly Roadhouse

We stop for lunch at the local KFC – as it turns out they ran out of chicken nuggets. Well, this is the outback, what to expect. Of course there are other items on the menu and we can contain our disappointment. No surprise either to see a sign here warning school truants that they are not being served during school hours if not accompanied by an adult.

Tennant Creek for us is a service stop. We don’t have the time and we don’t feel tempted to explore it further. I don’t want to appear insensitive to the people of Tennant Creek, but there really is nothing that we found attractive about the place.

Anyway, we head further north and take the Three Ways exit onto the Barkly Highway. Ahead an endless road that disappears on the horizon. To our left and our right there is dense bush. This is land that is managed by local aboriginal groups. You can see that it is untouched, looked after and in its natural state unlike the endless stretches of land that is under a lot of pressure from cattle graziers.

It’s a very lonely land. Only the roadtrains break the silence from time to time and we soon learn to hate them. One of them catapults a tiny pebble against our windscreen. The resulting crack turns out to be a constant source of entertainment as we watch it grow and cutting through our vision with every little vibration that we encounter on the road. We pray to the outback gods that our beloved windscreen will last us until the next service station.


Parrots in sunset light

Birds settling for the night

We were afraid that we would roll into Barkly Roadhouse too late and that they would be booked out but as it turns out, there is plenty of rooom for all. It’s the outback after all!

The roadhouse is clean and civilised, a real oasis in the desert. We park our campervan on a dusty spot and let the kids roam free. It’s beautiful. Arid, dusty, dry but beautiful. The site is surrounded by tall yellow grass, and one of our Grey Nomad neighbours pulls out a red rubber ball for the kids to play with.

Red flowers

A delicate outback flower

Barkly Homestead and Roadhouse

I stroll around to take some photos. It is peaceful and quiet, and so close to nature. I really can’t get enough of the light when the sun starts setting.

In the front of the roadhouse right on the highway there are a couple of rusty tractors and old machinery on display which make great photo opportunities.

Old tractor

Old outback machinery

Rusty Tractor

The day draws to an end, there will be more driving ahead tomorrow before we cross the border to Queensland and return to civilisation. It’s good to have this break away from city life. As a family we feel much closer now, and the washing up and setting up camp doesn’t bother us at all. While the sun sets for the day we feel we are at peace here, just part of the big wheel of time.

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